Autoimmune Defense and Living Environment (ADELE) is a strategic research opening funded by TEKES. ADELE will produce knowledge which facilitates the development of solutions for balancing and enhancing the function of immune system. The aim is to develop strategies for the prevention of immune-mediated disease, such as allergies, asthma, type 1 diabetes and inflammatory bowel diseases. Nowadays one in five people in developed countries suffer from an immune-mediated disease, and approximately 100 million people in the European Union have such disease. The costs of these diseases have been estimated to be more than 100 billion euros annually.

In the first half of the 20th century immune-mediated diseases were rare, but have rapidly increased during recent decades. Based on current knowledge, the improvement of hygiene levels in modern societies contributes to this increase – since it has reduced our exposure to microbes needed for the natural development of human immune systems. Risk groups include small children – as their immune system is still developing – and also elderly people, who often have a declined immune defence. The ADELE strategic research opening is based on large population cohorts and data sets, containing information on the reasons behind immune-mediated diseases, wellbeing and life style. Based on extensive analysis of these data sets and novel experiments, the ADELE consortium will develop scenarios on how to enhance the fitness of the immune system. These scenarios will utilize the most modern medical, biological, sociological and urban-planning information, and facilitate currently non-existing, commercial solutions.

The project is led by docent Aki Sinkkonen, University of Helsinki, Faculty of Biological and Environmental Studies. Collaborators include specialists working in the private sector, Natural Resources Institute Finland, University of Oulu, University of Turku, Charles University in Czech Republic, Kansas State University, University of Massachusetts Amherst, University of Florida and the University of Texas.